Race for Life
by Sue M
Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em but if I could they'd be on season 10 by now!
Thanks to Mog for the wonderful ATF Universe
My thanks, as always, to Phyllis...You're the best, girl! And also to the DD posse...thanks girls...you are all very special to me. Without your encouragement, this story would never have seen the light of day!
Vin was gaining on him.
"GO AWAY!" JD screamed, running faster. His lungs were on fire as he gulped in air.
"JD stop! Let me help you!" Vin yelled, still gaining. Chasing a friend whose hands were tied and body encased in plastic explosives was not how he'd imagined this day to go.
They were almost at the fountain in the mall; JD slipped on loose earth from the flower beds around it. Vin took a flying leap, taking them both into the water, both men coming up spluttering as Vin tugged hard until he pulled the harness of explosives over JD's head and away, throwing them into the water. He held the shaking boy tightly as he heard him whisper,
"No sweat, kid. I think we need to get you check..." Vin adjusted his grip when JD started to slip from his hands as the young agent blacked out.
Within minutes, the rest of Team Seven had arrived and were helping the two men out of the water.
"Holy crap!" Buck groaned when he saw the bruises on his unconscious roommate's face and neck as he pulled the soaked boy toward him and laid him on the ground.
"Ambulance is just coming," Ezra informed them, "How is he?"
"Still alive," Vin stated, confused and disgusted at events over the past two days.
From a rooftop not far from the scene, two men were watching through binoculars.
"Perfect," Cord smiled, "I think we've found our two runners."
"Kid's gonna be sore for a few days," Briars reminded.
Cord grinned, "No problem, I need a week to set this up, he'll be fine by then." He went back to his binoculars and watched the ambulance pull away. "He's gonna have to be, or Tanner's gonna be mighty pissed!"
+ + + + + + +
"Chris, I'm fine. Tell them to let me out of here...I just want to go home."
"Soon, kid." He looked at the other five men sitting in the hospital room, "Ok, let's hear it...from the top."
TWO DAYS PRIOR - THE CDC
"Why did you leave it in the car, Buck?"
"Well, hell kid, it wasn't intentional. I just forgot to pick it up, is all."
"We stopped at the deli especially, you'd think..."
"Are ya gonna go get it, or do I have to go myself?"
JD huffed, "Naw, I'll go...wouldn't want those old bones of yours to suffer..."
Buck snapped a tea-towel at his roommate but got no where close. JD chuckled,
"You'll have to be quicker than that, to get me, old man!"
As JD stepped outside into the cool evening air, he took a deep breath. The air in Denver was so much fresher than Boston, and he loved being so close to the mountains. He opened the Chevy and leaned inside to reach for the bag on the seat of the truck, when suddenly pressure on his back pressed him down onto the seat, face down.
His muffled cry was lost in the leather seats as rough hands pulled his arms back and a gag was pushed into his mouth. Finally regaining some composure, JD kicked out hard with his feet and clearly hit a delicate area as the person holding him grunted in pain and released him. The young agent spun around onto his back, spat out the gag and kicked out at his assailant again, successfully pushing the man away from him. Just as he was about to slide out to get his feet to the ground, new hands grabbed his feet and pulled the youth out of the truck and as JD slid out, the back of his head hit the running board hard.
Struggling with dizziness, he could no longer fully coordinate his movements and was helpless as the second man hoisted him over his shoulder. Once more, JD tried desperately to wriggle from his balanced position, causing the man to drop him down to the ground, but before the youth could react, a cloth heavily soaked in a chemical was pushed over his nose and mouth. He tried to struggle away, but felt pressure at the back of his skull, as hands pushed front and back of his head to ensure the cloth had full impact. As he screamed for help through the sodden material, JD's hands clawed desperately at his attacker's arms and at the hands holding the cloth. He could feel his legs and body wilting as if turning to liquid, but before he could consider the implications, he was unconscious.
Twenty minutes later, Buck was reading from a piece of paper he'd found in the Chevy; within the hour, the rest of Team Seven were at the CDC with a distraught Wilmington, waiting for the phone to ring. When it eventually did, the six men jumped, despite the fact it was expected. Buck answered and hit 'speaker' so that they all could hear.
"Hello, Mr. Wilmington, I'm sure by now you're anxious to know how your teammate is. I'm afraid he's not lucid enough to speak right now, but I assure you he is in reasonable health as we speak; whether he remains that way will be up to you and your fellow teammates...hello by the way, I know you're all there. I'll be in touch."
The phone went dead and Buck closed his eyes and swallowed hard, replacing the receiver slowly as if there was a slim possibility it might crackle back to life.
"He didn't tell us anything," Josiah pointed out.
Chris glowered, "What the fuck are they playing at? If they want us to cooperate, we need more than..."
The phone rang again.
"Right, gentlemen...I want you to go to Three Springs Mall, to the square, tomorrow at midnight. Come alone and I will return your agent. Failure to comply will result in his death. This is an exercise in trust, gentlemen. Goodnight."
"Wait..." Buck called but the dial tone snapped him back to reality...he was gone.
Chris stood up and slammed his hand against the living room door- frame.
"WHAT DO THEY WANT?"
"Guess we'll have to wait until tomorrow," Vin shrugged, his casual words hiding his inner turmoil and fear for his young teammate.
Larabee glared. "Ya think?"
"Enough," Josiah warned, "JD needs us to keep it together...WE need to keep it together."
They all looked at the profiler and nodded, sitting down.
+ + + + + + +
JD tried hard to open his eyes...he felt so tired. His eyelids were heavy and it felt like he had warm cotton stuffed in his mouth, he was parched. None of his limbs would move independently, and after a few minutes he blacked out again.
The next time he awoke he was being manhandled into a sitting position. JD gasped as a hand struck his face hard several times, than a short sharp assault on his ribs and stomach began. Before he could draw breath, the assault was over and the door to his room clanked shut. As he lay there, shivering, he couldn't help but wonder what the hell had just happened. About a half hour later, he had recovered enough to sit up. He spotted a plate of food and a bottle of water on a chair in a corner and shakily made his way over to it. As he swigged back the liquid and finished the last of the sandwich he began to wonder what day it was.
Cord and Briars were putting the finishing touches to a harness, the table next to them littered with casings.
"So we're gonna fill this with plastic explosives, but no detonators?" Briars asked.
"So this thing isn't real?"
"No," Cord looked at the other man sharply, "But he'll think it is."
"And we're just gonna let him walk right back to his team tomorrow?"
"Yes...I told you, we're getting paid to keep these yahoos busy, preoccupied...what we get out of it, over and above our fee...is a bonus."
Briars nodded, "Lucky for us it was him that came out...didn't really fancy goin' head to head with the two of them."
Cord nodded and put down the piece he was working on.
Team Seven sat silently in the SUV. Buck checked his watch once again, eleven thirty four... He looked at Chris; the team leader's face was set, hard, his jaw muscle jumping with tension, Chris returned the brunette's look.
"Easy, Buck...we need to keep calm."
"Is it just me...or does none of this make sense?"
Nathan leaned forward, "No, it doesn't make any sense, and that's making me as nervous as is wondering what condition he's going to be in."
"Gentlemen, I sense a bigger picture here." They all turned to the southerner, "My apologies, I may have misled you... I have no clue as to WHAT the bigger picture might be...yet...but this is all a little too easy for my liking."
Josiah nodded, "I think Ezra's right, the question is...will it become clearer here, or another time?"
Buck paled, "You think there's more to come?"
"Couldn't say," Josiah shrugged, "Just a feeling."
Vin was sat between them listening. Chris heard the sharpshooter swallow.
"Vin...you got any thoughts?"
"All I know is...one of our team...our friend...got taken by force outside his own home and apart from two short phone calls...we don't know if he's hurt...if they're really comin'..." he looked apologetically at Buck, "Or if he's dead."
Buck and Vin looked at each other and held their gaze, both men seeing the same fear and frustration. With a quick nod to each other, they finally looked away.
The van which the two kidnappers and their victim were traveling in had pulled into a side street close to the square. The two men joined the young agent in the back.
JD squirmed in horror as the small harness was slipped over his head.
"Wh...what is this?"
"Now, I've heard you're an intelligent guy...I'm sure you already know the answer to that question!"
"Because I can," Cord smirked. "Now listen up, you will wait for your teammates to arrive. If you attempt to escape or remove this device, I will detonate it, when one of them approaches you, if you care at all about them, I want you to run away as fast as you can."
"Wh...why?" JD stammered, cursing himself for repeating his previous question.
"Because one of you blowing into pieces won't be pretty, but two of you..."
"I don't understand," JD begged.
"You're not meant to...I haven't decided if I'll kill you, kill two of you, or...just... let you go..."
The young agent looked at the man incredulously. This man was totally crazy.
"...So if you put on a good show...who knows?" Cord checked his watch, eleven-fifty. He opened the back doors and pointed.
"Head toward that bench there and wait. I'm sure they'll be along shortly." He checked that the agent's hands were still tied securely and pushed him forward, slamming the doors as they followed him out. The easterner watched from his position on the ground where he had landed as the two men jumped into the front of the van and pulled away.
JD watched as the van turned a corner, the last thing he saw of it was the red tail lights flicker briefly and then disappear. What he didn't know was that, seconds later the van had stopped and the two men were making their way to the rooftop of a nearby two-story building.
His stomach knotted with fear, the youth made his way toward the bench. If he was approached, he had to run. He pondered that and decided he wouldn't stop either. He wasn't going to give those bastards the satisfaction of blowing two or more of them up.
An audible groan came from Team Seven as they first spotted their friend. Looking through binoculars, Chris sighed.
"He's wrapped in explosives."
The confusion and frustration hung in the air in the vehicle as they decided to step out.
JD saw his teammates looking back at him as they exited the SUV. He prayed they would stay put...there was nothing in the rules about them staying put.
"We can't leave him like that," Vin insisted, "I know they're probably watching, but..."
"I'm going," Buck was already moving.
Knowing Buck was the most knowledgeable, Larabee had no argument, but he was shocked as he watched the big man walk toward his friend... and JD yell something... and take off, running.
A blur flashed past the team and it took a few seconds to realize it was Vin, the rest of the team eventually catching up, after JD and Vin took a dive into the fountain.
"I'm still not sure why they beat me up...I think it was maybe a warning...or just to confuse me," JD sighed, "They sure as hell did that alright."
"They've confused all of us," Buck sighed, patting the young agent on the knee.
JD bowed his head slightly, allowing his hair to fall over his face, several seconds later he looked up at Buck, then Vin.
"I'm sorry, I ran...sorry I made you chase after me...it's just that..." the six men watched as their young teammate shuddered and struggled with his composure.
"...I believed what I was wearing was real...I didn't want to put any of you in harm's way." His voice had dropped to a whisper.
"Well, I know how fast you can run, so I guess your bruised ribs and you bein' trussed up like a thanksgiving turkey helped." Vin stood and sat on the bed next to the young man.
"You're a brave man, JD...you did the honorable thing, I'm just grateful it all worked out."
A few days later saw JD's insistent return to work, albeit light duties and endless trawling through mug shots to trace his abductors, though with little success. Team Seven was on the cusp of a huge bust...an arms and narcotics deal that had been eluding them for some time. But they'd caught a break and were confident of the imminent arrest of a particularly active group, led by one Jose Moreno. JD's computer skills had certainly come into it's own as the young agent had searched tirelessly through mind-numbingly boring data, to eventually hit pay-dirt, uncovering page after page of warehousing, off-shore accounts and shipment schedules.
Chris was in no doubt that some of this information had been 'hacked' but he didn't care, it got him and his team nearer their objective, to recover the goods and put Moreno away...for life.
+ + + + + + +
Cord and Briars checked into the five-star Denver Hilton and set about putting their plan into action.
Moreno was more than aware Denver's best ATF team was on to him and at first hadn't been too concerned. When, however one of his own IT people had confirmed their computer security systems had been breached and all their data accessed, he knew he had to act quickly.
At first his intention had been to kidnap and murder Agent Dunne...he was, after all, the man behind the computer success...of that he had no doubt. He had hired someone months ago to profile these agents. But then he realized that would not keep the team from their objective...in fact, he considered it would spur a man like Larabee on harder.
So with new-hire Anthony Cord and his accomplice Donald Briars, Moreno's plans changed from murder, to distraction, allowing the man free-rein and despite the young agent's release, in his opinion, too soon, he trusted Cord and left him to deal with it.
Seven days after JD's abduction, Cord and Briars were ready to proceed with phase two. One long day for Team Seven... especially the two youngest, presenting a window of opportunity for Moreno to clinch the deal uninterrupted. As long as the team had their minds elsewhere, Moreno felt confident they would miss the signs that he was making his move.
Nathan picked up the call in the bullpen that morning and as instructed, put the caller on speaker phone after he'd called to the others to come to the desk. Frowning, they all looked toward the disembodied voice.
"Good morning, gentlemen...I must congratulate whoever it was that came up with the idea of pairing up your resident computer whiz with Mister Tanner, you saved me a lot of work. I'll be in touch."
Chris' head snapped around the room then back to Buck, Ezra, Josiah and Nathan.
"Where are they?" Larabee had paled slightly.
Buck's pallor matched his team leader, "They went to get lunch."
Both men immediately dialed a cell, but only got voicemail.
"Perhaps it is merely a bluff." Ezra speculated.
"Should we go check?" Nathan asked.
"NO!" Chris snapped, "No one leaves here alone, for now. Let's see if Ezra's right...we'll wait."
As Vin and JD stepped out from the deli, JD stopped dead, causing Vin to walk into his shoulder. Vin looked to JD, but seeing the frozen expression of fear on his friend's face, he followed his gaze. As he spotted the gun barrel pointing at them, he instinctively stepped in front of the younger man.
"Very commendable, Mister Tanner, but I actually require both of you this time. Now if you would kindly step toward the van, please...nice and easy if you will, we wouldn't want an innocent passer-by injured, would we?"
JD couldn't move. He felt his stomach lurch as his mind flashed back to the events of a week ago. Not wanting to antagonize the man holding the gun, Vin gently encouraged the youth to walk forward.
"Again...very good Mister Tanner, quickly now please...we have much to do."
The two men stepped into the van and sat down quietly. They had been relieved of their guns, wallets, phones and pagers and shuddered as the van doors slammed shut. Vin was furious, but felt it necessary to stay in control for now as he was very aware of how JD was reacting to their predicament and didn't want to put him in any more danger than was necessary. He knew under normal circumstances the younger man would be up for anything but as he had not been long out of the hospital, Vin was unsure of where JD's stamina levels were.
Chris was inwardly debating whether he should take this to Travis when the phone in the bullpen rang again, not normally an unusual occurrence, but his gut told him this was no ordinary call.
Once again, gathering around they listened intently to the caller as they recorded every syllable.
"Gentlemen, you'll be relieved to know both your agents are fine...for now...and will remain that way as long as they do as they're told. There is one other stipulation...this stays with you. Should I find you have involved anyone else...anyone...I will not hesitate to kill them both."
The five agents looked at each other and shifted their feet as the enormity of their predicament kicked in.
"Tomorrow, I have plans for these men...if they behave themselves, I will return them, unharmed, and if they don't...well...we shall see."
The phone clicked off, no one spoke for a minute or so. Finally, Ezra broke the silence.
"Well...clearly not a bluff it would seem."
Larabee's mood was clearly going downhill fast. "What does this guy want? Two abductions in as many weeks...what the FUCK does he want?
Josiah clasped his hands together, "I believe, if we can work out his fascination with JD, we may have an answer."
"Explain..." Buck insisted.
"Why don't we pick a conference room and set up there? I feel if we can work through this logically, the answer will present itself."
Chris nodded, "Agreed, let's use room one. Nathan get me a flip chart and a white board in there, Buck organize some coffee, Ezra, bring your lap top. If you're meant to be somewhere guys, call now... this is gonna be an all-nighter. "
+ + + + + + +
The room they were in was familiar to JD. He was thankful they had been allowed to stay together. He hadn't realized his position on the bed as his back rested against a wall, his arms wrapped around tucked up knees, until Vin spoke to him.
"You alright, kid?"
JD looked at him, "Yeah, I guess, you?"
Vin nodded, although he wasn't convinced about his partner, his fears realized as JD spoke again.
"Vin, this guy's a whacko...we got to get out of here."
"Yeah, kind of figured he was, and normally I'd agree with you, but... hell...I'm not sure what to think of this..."
The two men looked at each other, JD looked weary.
"I can't do this again, Vin...I haven't told anyone this, but, when I thought I had a bomb strapped to me...I really believed I was gonna die. I can't believe you chased me down."
Vin moved in closer. "Had to try, kid...couldn't let the bastards win."
"But...you coulda been killed too..."
Vin shrugged. JD looked him in the eyes.
"Thanks...you saved my life. Oh I know the explosives weren't real, but... you didn't know that."
"Only doin' what you'd do for me... right kid?"
JD nodded vigorously "In a heartbeat."
"Ok then," Vin grinned, "Let's move on." He raised his head and shouted, "Hey assholes! You planning on giving us anything to eat or drink, or is that the idea ...to starve us and let us dehydrate?"
Within minutes the door was unlocked and a tray pushed in across the floor. Whoever was there was gone in seconds.
"Well, that was easy...do ya think they'd be as quick if I asked for the key to the door?"
JD smirked as he walked over to the tray and retrieved the water bottles, handing one to Vin.
"Looks like we're here for the night at least."
The sharpshooter nodded as he took a good long pull on the pleasantly cold liquid.
'Yeah' he thought to himself, 'for the night at least.'
+ + + + + + +
At five in the morning the whiteboard remained empty, the flip chart contained two names...Tanner and Dunne. Josiah stood poised, marker in hand. Under Dunne he wrote abduction twice, the same word under Tanner once.
"Shall we focus on the first abduction?" the profiler stated more than asked.
Writing as he spoke, "Whoever these people are, they knew where Buck and JD live and they knew the direct phone number to the apartment. For now, we can only assume their target was JD, as they seemed to have focused on him again, but, of course, it could just as easily have been either Buck or JD they wanted, it just being the luck of the draw who they got to first. The caller knew we would all be there...how? Was he watching us...do we know him? Does he know our habits?
Jumping briefly to the second abduction...this time he was more specific...he called Vin by his surname and referred to JD as the 'resident computer whiz' and even though that confirms he knows about us, that last statement bugs me to hell...and I don't know why."
They decided to go for another round of coffees as the rest of the Federal Building started to flicker to life.
JD had been asleep on and off for a few hours, lying on the bed. Vin was sleeping with his usual 'one eye open' as he sat on the floor, below JD's head, his back against the mattress in a protective position to the younger man. On a normal day, Vin knew JD was equal to either one of the rest of the team, but this was not a normal day. It had been his first full day back to work after a hospital stay and Vin felt more comfortable keeping that to the front of his mind for now.
The sharpshooter considered, briefly, a sharp dash to the door to intercept their abductors as the door lock turned, but dismissed it. He liked to assess any difficulties when tackling a problem to maximize success so in this instance...he was screwed.
Cord and Briars stepped in, guns pointed at the two agents. Vin gently shook JD and helped him to focus on the situation in hand.
"Good morning, gentlemen. I've always believed in keeping fit...you know, healthy mind, healthy body...so I've decided you should both go on a little run today, and if you're good, and I'm satisfied with your performances... you can go back to your team."
Both agents were on their feet now, Vin scowled.
"You're an asshole...go to hell."
"Hell, yes...I'm sure I will indeed end up there...as for being an asshole, well, I'm an asshole with a gun. Now, step forward both of you...I have a gift for you."
Neither man moved so Briars stepped cautiously forward and roughly pulled JD's left arm toward him, snapping on a metallic bracelet.
Vin watched and withheld his arm.
"Now...that was a mistake, Mr. Tanner, as now you've forced me to show you what happens if you don't follow the rules."
Cord produced something similar to a remote control from his jacket pocket, turned a dial and pressed a button.
A jolt of electricity shot through JD's body from his wrist, causing him to half gasp half scream in pain as he shuddered briefly and dropped to the floor.
"Oops," Cord smirked, adjusting the dial slightly, "A little strong I think, my bad."
Vin was instantly at his friend's side, pushing the hair from his face and encouraging him to slow down his rapid breathing.
"JD...kid, easy now, deep breaths, c'mon, that's it...nice 'n' easy..."
He turned to Cord in contempt.
"You arrogant bastard, I'm gonna stick that fucking box up your..."
JD shuddered slightly again, whimpering more than screaming this time.
Vin turned back to him, cursing under his breath.
"Mr. Tanner...Vin...may I call you Vin? I would remind you...the rules. If either of you disobey the rules, I WILL punish you."
Vin had pulled JD toward him, leaning him against his chest. The young man was slowly recovering and looked at Tanner, nodding to let him know.
"Ok...you got our attention...what are the 'rules'?" he begrudgingly held out his wrist to allow Briars to snap on his bracelet.
Cord smirked..."Oh those...I'll be making those up as we go along. Now... move!"
Within minutes the two agents were back in the van and heading, Vin concluded, toward the center of Denver.
+ + + + + + +
By eleven am and numerous cups of coffee later, Team Seven were sat around the conference table, exhausted and defeated.
No matter how they tried, they couldn't reconcile anything to anyone. There had been no more phone calls and now their thoughts turned back to the safety of their friends. Ezra pushed his laptop away from him in disgust.
"Gaah! This is JD's specialty. I swear that boy could find the lost city of Atlantis with his computer if you gave him enough time."
Larabee's head snapped around at him.
"What did you say?"
"Computer...computer... " the blond's mind was clearly turning. He looked at Josiah.
"What was it that bothered you...something from the second set of phone calls?"
Josiah sat up, "The caller referred to JD as the 'computer whiz...'"
Larabee pushed his hand through his hair and paced.
"Computers...why did he focus in on that? What was he 'really' referring to?
Buck sighed, "Hell, kid's hardly ever off it...it's what he does, we ask, he digs."
Now the whole team was sitting up.
"Could the guy be related to a case we've worked on?" Nathan joined in.
Chris snapped his fingers..."Or, WORKING on...!"
Ezra was already tapping his keyboard. He smiled and turning it around for Chris to read said, "Gentlemen...the bigger picture."
The team leader smiled.
"Moreno! He's moving money from one of his offshore accounts."
"And it would seem one of his warehouses is preparing for a shipment," Ezra added.
Josiah grinned, "God bless that boy for keeping this link open."
"You think Moreno's behind this? Why didn't he just kill him...or us?" Buck asked.
"And have Federal blood on his hands?" Chris replied, "But if we were distracted..."
"...He could conclude any outstanding business unimpeded," Ezra finished.
Within half an hour the whiteboard was full of pictures arrows and comments. Chris looked across at Buck, noting how quiet his oldest friend had become amid the 'buzz' that had been generated. He knew instinctively why the man was brooding; he knew every man there felt the same but had just been grateful to cling to something positive.
Wilmington turned to his boss...his friend...his brother.
"If we go after this guy...how do we know they'll be safe? What if we arrest Moreno...and they die because of it?"
The room had now gone quiet as Buck's words echoed around it. Chris looked into the man's eyes, and swore he could see right into his soul...the pain and anguish simmering just below the surface, threatening to break through.
"I'll agree with anything you decide. If you want to go look for them, take someone with you and the rest of us will organize the bust, or we can all bust Moreno, and then all go looking for our boys."
Buck sighed; "God knows, I want to get our boys back,"
"But I REALLY want that bastard Moreno...and deliver a personal message of my own."
"Either way, time is tight." Chris placed his hand on Buck's shoulder, "Let's get him, big guy, he may even know where they are."
Buck swallowed hard, nodding.
Chris turned to the rest of the team, "Let's finish this!"
+ + + + + + +
Vin and JD had been deposited on the sidewalk and each handed an ear piece. As they fitted them, Vin looked up to get a bearing. They were on the corner of W. 14th Avenue and N. Speer. The address didn't appear to be significant. Their headsets crackled.
"You seem perturbed Vin, please don't try to work this out, this is an exercise in trust. Now, you boys already know what will happen to you if you fail to follow my rules, but I have another little gift for you, and you'll appreciate this, Vin...I have a high velocity rifle, and, if I say so myself, I'm a pretty good shot. Now, if you don't want to see any of the good citizens of Denver shot where they stand, I suggest you keep focused on your task and all will be fine. However, just to show my commitment to our little game here..."
The sound cut off, but a few seconds later a shot ran out and a passing motorcyclist flew sideways off his bike.
"Oh my God," JD whispered and went to move to help the man.
"Ah, ah, ah, JD, he is not your concern," the voice in their ear cackled, "That one was on me...the next one, however, may be on you."
The two agents watched, mortified, as traffic halted and people started to gather around the man on the ground.
"Right then, gentlemen, I have requested two million dollars from Denver's local officials and in return I promise not to shoot too many people, but as I've explained to them, I have two of their Federal Agents currently running around town awaiting instructions as to where they might pick up the money once it is ready for collection. Now, their failure to comply and /or your failure to reach a designated destination will result in me shooting a good citizen. Sound crazy? It is, but it's my game and my rules. Oh and don't forget, I have the added incentive of your very special bracelets too. And just for the record...your teammates, while currently searching for you, are missing out on the bust of their lives. Now these are the kind of odds I like. OK, time is wasting. Proceed to the phone booth on the corner of W. 14th Avenue and N. Elati Street. You have five minutes...go!"
For a moment or two the two men stood in shock, unable to absorb all that had happened and been said. Suddenly Vin snapped out of it and grabbed JD's arm.
"C'mon, kid...we gotta go!"
Across town, Teams Seven and Three were in position, relying on Team Three's marksman for the high detail. Larabee touched his throat mic and gave the order, then proceeded to step into view and call out, his weapon held at shoulder height, both arms outstretched ahead of him.
"ATF! Put your weapons on the ground and place your hands on top of your heads."
As expected, the gathered men scattered but soon halted as warning shots rang out around them. Those who dared fire back were taken out and soon the gang was surrounded on all sides.
Chris couldn't contain his smile as one man was marched toward him.
"Jose Moreno...don't tell me... you were out walking...you thought this was the local park..."
With no warning, the blond stepped forward and grabbed the man by his lapels and took him out of the hands of Team Three and pushed him toward a waiting Buck. As the rest of Team Seven closed in, Chris snarled, "Where are my men?"
"Maybe we should talk about a deal?" Moreno smirked.
"Wasn't that just admittance to the kidnapping and detaining of Federal Officers, Agent Wilmington?" Larabee asked, still holding on to the man.
Buck stepped in closer behind Moreno causing the arms dealer to do a half turn of his head to check the man's position.
"Oh I think it was sir...I do believe it was."
"What are you trying to pin on me? I admitted to nothing. I want my lawyer."
Chris got right into the man's face, "You see all these agents here? All they want is to see you gone and their teammates back safe and unharmed. Do you think they'll give a fuck what I put in my report if you end up on the coroner's slab?"
"You can't do that...that's intimidation, and if I die...murder. You're bluffing Larabee, now read me my rights."
Chris stepped back, "Boys, I believe Mister Moreno fears he may have left something behind in the warehouse, would you be so kind as to escort him back to the building to locate it?"
Team Seven started to move forward. Moreno panicked.
"Wait...wait!" He paused for a moment, "All I know is they were being kept out of the way until this bust was over, nothing more. It was designed to get you off my back. If I make a phone call, he'll think the deal is complete and he'll release them."
"Who's he?" Josiah inquired.
"Cord, Anthony Cord...a new guy, a bit intense, but thorough."
Larabee handed Moreno back his cell phone. "Make the call."
Hands shaking, Moreno dialed. "Cord, it's done...cut 'em loose." His face paled and did not go unnoticed by the team.
"What do you mean, no can do? It's over...let them go...what...? Are you insane? Cord...Cord...!"
Moreno looked in fear at the men of Team Seven. "H...he says they're his now...he's got them doing something which involves running around... he said, listen to the news."
With a look of disgust Chris gave a quick nod and Buck handed Moreno over to Team Three. Team Seven went in search of a radio.
Ten minutes later they were heading for the center of Denver.
+ + + + + + +
Vin and JD were soaked with sweat. They had made each destination in record time but JD was struggling with his recent injury to his ribs, although he wouldn't admit it. They rested at the phone booth on W. 13th and N. Broadway, gasping air into their aching lungs. Vin looked across at JD.
JD kept his eyes closed and nodded.
"Better'n you... I reckon, we need water...ya got any money on ya?"
JD shook his head, "No...he took my wallet."
Suddenly JD's body jolted and with a gasp he slid down the booth grasping his wrist.
"Goddamnit...why' d he do that?" Vin growled and dropped down next to his friend. Just as Vin reached him, his own body jolted and he flew back against the glass door of the booth.
"Now boys...not sleeping on the job are you?" came the voice over the earpieces. "Still no word from the city officials, my patience is wearing thin. I'm calling in the next location and if they don't call that booth when you arrive, there will be one less citizen of Denver."
As they were receiving their new instructions, the two men helped each other up. Within seconds they were running, and hoping they would receive good news soon. As they reached the next booth the phone was already ringing. Tanner made an extra spurt and yanked the handset from the cradle.
"Yeah?" he gasped.
"Vin...keep a straight face...it's Chris."
The sharpshooter dared not look at his teammate for fear of giving himself away.
"There could be a bug..."
"There was, we got it. He's gonna ask, so tell him the money is ready and waiting to be collected from a trash can in the car park at the Civic Center. How's JD holding up?"
"He's struggling but he's tough, he'll be fine. Do you know where this guy is?"
"We've narrowed it down to five possible locations. We need you to get to where the money's meant to be, so hang in there."
"Will do." Vin replaced the phone only for it to ring again.
"Mister Tanner, it would seem I've had a technical hiccup...was there news?"
Vin relayed Chris' message.
"Excellent, right...off you go."
Vin groaned and looked at JD who was resting his head against the cool glass.
JD was beyond exhausted. His ribs ached, his head ached and he was parched. He secretly hoped there would be no more running but feared the worst when Vin took his arm as he exited the booth.
"We need to get to the Civic Center."
JD sighed heavily and dropped his head.
"Keep your head down for a second...the first call was from Chris, they're on it. This is their call, but Cord doesn't know."
As if he'd just been given an armful of adrenalin, JD looked at his friend with determination.
Ignoring the stares as they raced through people going about their everyday business, the two agents ran with a new found energy. The streets and sidewalks were quietly emptying as warnings were filtering through on radio and TV news bulletins.
Briars was hovering at the edges of the car park at the front of the Civic Center main building. Cord was comfortably positioned on the roof of an office block directly opposite. His original instructions to officials was for the drop to be at this position, but knowing it would take some time, he had intended keeping everyone on high alert with his unpredictable location changes and concern for the welfare of the two agents. He believed Moreno had successfully concluded his own business and with that fee safely banked he was keen to conclude his own transaction.
Team Seven had taken over an office at the front of the main building and was scanning the surrounding area with binoculars. Nathan was just about to give up and rest his eyes for a moment, when a flash of light caught his attention. He did a double take and a grin formed on his lips.
The EMT handed his glasses to Larabee and pointed. The blond grinned too.
"Gotcha!" he smirked.
"Let me at him, Chris," Buck pleaded.
"No...there'll be time enough for that, let's get the guys safely off the street...he isn't going anywhere, especially now." Remaining back from the window, the agents scanned the area anxiously for a sign of their teammates.
"There!" Ezra pointed and they all sighed as the two youngest came into view.
"They look like shit..." Buck observed.
Chris nodded his agreement. "Not surprising really, is it?"
"What should we do?" Josiah inquired.
"I really don't know," Chris answered, honestly, "Let's see who collects the package from them."
"Hey Vin, I'm sweating so much, I think I can slip my bracelet off."
"Already have," the sharpshooter answered, "Be careful he don't see you."
"Ok...Which trashcan will it be in?"
"Didn't say...just gotta wait, I guess."
Their earpieces crackled, "Congratulations to you both...a fine team performance...well played. Now I want one of you to go to the can on the far left, and one to the right. Check each one and when you find the package with the money, hold it above your head."
The two men looked apprehensively at each other. Eventually, Vin nodded and JD nodded back and they split up. One by one, they searched each can; slowly making their way toward the center trashcan directly at the front of the building at the entrance to the parking area. While rooting through, JD slipped his bracelet off and left it there. At the next can, he found a package, marked "internal mail". He peeked inside and spotted bundles of notes. Removing it, he held it above his head and whistled to Vin.
By now, Team Seven was in the lobby and watching the proceedings while preparing to make their move. Police officers had Cord's building surrounded with some on the floor directly below him.
Cord spoke. "Well done JD, now, stay perfectly still and await your instructions. Vin, it's been fun."
A shot rang out and Vin spun backward, hitting the ground and rolling as he grunted in pain.
"VIN!!" JD yelled and started to move, stalling suddenly as shots skidded around his feet. JD had had enough and rational thinking was no longer an option. He ran to his friend, ignoring the yelling in his earpiece and the shots bouncing off the ground around him. He gave a defiant call.
"You sick Bastard...you want your money...?" He threw the package high and long, "There y'are... go fucking get it!"
He had almost reached Vin when a sharp pain tore through his side. Gasping, he stumbled, but he reached his friend's side regardless.
In the few seconds since the shooting started, the officers in Cord's building made their move and Team Seven burst from their building, guns aimed and ready to fire, despite knowing their bullets would not carry as far as the roof of the building, and began to form a protective wall around the downed agents.
JD was checking Vin and noticed the gouge across one side of his head. Relieved when he felt a pulse he pulled off his top shirt to hold against the wound. A hand on his shoulder caused him to flinch and twist, relaxing when he saw Nathan.
"JD, you ok?"
"I'm fine, Nate...see to Vin."
Larabee was next to them and confirmed that the police officers had shot and killed Cord as the man had attempted to shoot his way out. Unknown to all of them, Briars, who had been watching from ground level, had escaped.
As ambulance sirens sounded in the distance, the men of Team Seven sought to comfort their injured and exhausted men.
"Is Vin gonna be ok?" JD asked as he started to stand.
"Yeah, I think so...it's not too deep," Nathan replied.
Buck came alongside JD, "Are you hurt?"
"Naw I'm fine, thanks."
Ezra approached from the other side.
"I beg to differ, young man, you appear to be bleeding."
JD twisted to see and noticed the blood. He looked at Buck.
Buck caught him as the youth passed out.
+ + + + + + +
The ambulance trip had been traumatic as JD's stats had dropped dramatically, but as fluids entered his body through the IV, he rallied.
Buck talked and encouraged him all the way to the hospital, only leaving his side when he was taken into the ER. Within the hour, Vin had been examined, cleaned and bandaged and placed in a room, while JD went into surgery to repair the damage from the clean shot to his side.
Vin was drifting in and out of consciousness as the remainder of the team sat with him, waiting on news of JD's operation. About two hours later, Vin was more awake and talking. A doctor entered the room announcing he was there with news of JD.
"There was minimal damage," the doctor explained, "The bullet went clean through and he came through surgery very well. He's in recovery if you'd like to see him.
"I'll go," Buck offered, "You guys stay with Vin for a while."
Buck was relieved to see his best friend resting comfortably and stood next to him for his own comfort as much as JD's as an orderly bustled around them in the background.
One of the officers that had taken down Cord came in to Vin's room.
"Sorry to disturb you, guys, I just need Agent Tanner to ID this photograph of Cord for the record."
He handed over the photograph, taken directly after the man had been shot.
Vin stared at the photo for a good while, then handed it back.
"It ain't him."
They all looked at Vin, surprised.
"I...I'm sorry, sir?" The officer stuttered out
"It ain't him...that's the other guy that was with him...Briars, I think was his name."
Larabee looked to his friend in surprise. "Vin...are you sure?"
Vin nodded, wincing, "Yep...no doubt."
Everyone stared at each other for a few moments. Josiah stood.
"Nathan, you and Ezra stay with Vin, Officer, go and get help, Josiah, with me, now!" Chris ordered and they headed out.
JD stirred slightly and Buck leaned in.
"Hey kid...how you doin'?"
The youth tried to focus.
"That's me...here..." he offered the younger man a drink.
"Vin...is he ok?"
"He's doin' good, son, and so are you... JD?"
Buck was surprised to see his roommate's eyes widen, but didn't have time to consider it as a blow across the back of his head sent him spiraling into darkness.
"Agent Dunne...nice to see you again. I hate loose ends..."
JD watched in nervous silence as Cord held up a syringe.
"Well... I don't have time to waste; I still have to visit with Agent Tanner."
He stuffed a cloth into JD's mouth and leaning across onto the youth's chest as the agent tried to struggle, he edged toward the IV line with the syringe.
"Now, shall we see who wins in a contest of you finishing that job and me blowing your head off your shoulders?" Chris growled, pointing his gun at Cord.
Cord looked like he was relaxing then made a sudden lunge for the line.
The look of shock on his face as the bullet from Chris' gun entered his head would have been funny, had the situation not been so dire. As the man's body spun and traveled toward the back wall behind JD's bed, the young agent screwed up his eyes, cowering in the bed as he let out a muffled scream.
Josiah checked on a groaning Buck as the arriving officers took care of Cord.
Chris removed the gag from JD's mouth and, satisfied the syringe had not penetrated anything, he pushed hair from JD's face, brushing away several large spatters of blood.
"Having a bad day, huh? Are you ok?"
Shaking violently, JD nodded and swallowed hard, he tried to look to where Cord had fallen and where police officers now stood, but Chris kept his youngest agent's face turned toward him. JD then turned anxious eyes around to locate his roommate.
"Th...Thanks Chris...is B...Buck ok?"
Slowly the big man was rising to his feet, swaying slightly and holding the back of his head as Josiah helped him up.
Chris winked, "Guy's head's too hard to do any damage," but even as he said the words, the blond looked at his oldest friend for affirmation.
JD nodded and half-smiled, clasping at the now offered hand from a still wobbly Buck and looking at the man's eyes to satisfy himself he was ok. Not releasing his grip on his friend's hand, the still- shaking youth fought and lost his drug assisted battle to drift back to sleep, Chris looked at his oldest friend and then to the profiler and took in a deep calming breath as he considered the implications of himself and Josiah arriving just a few minutes later.
TEN DAYS LATER
It had been confirmed that Briars had been the sniper during the last stages of the ransom collection, allowing Cord the freedom to pick up the money. Team Seven considered that to be fortunate for Vin and JD as Briars was most likely a poorer shot than Cord.
As Team Seven relaxed at the CDC during a day of fast food and sport, Vin looked at JD.
"So, ya coming back to work Monday?"
JD nodded as he stuffed another egg roll into his mouth.
"Just as well...you're gonna get fat ya keep eating like that!"
JD stopped chewing and snorted..."I can outrun you any day, Tanner," he mumbled.
Vin smirked, "Aw c'mon JD...get serious!"
"You wanna go now? Come on, smart-ass...once around the block."
Both men grunted as they each got a faceful of cushion.
Chris and Buck were glowering as the other men chuckled.
"Ok...no racing. Shall we see who can flick their bottle cap the furthest off the deck?" JD bobbed his eyebrows, looking first to Vin and then back at the two disgruntled men.
Buck looked at Chris.
"Next time they get kidnapped and sent running around the city...let's just leave 'em to it!"
Chris smirked, standing over the two and leaning in. "Deal, as long as 'I' get the option to shoot 'em...or not... next time."
The two youngest agents laughed, and then looked at each other as Larabee's expression did not change.
JD gulped and offered a weak smile, looking at Chris as the blond sat back down.
"You're kidding..." he looked at the others, "He's kidding...right guys... guys?"